Our society has never been so divided. While forest fires run rampant and political disagreements wage wars on friendships, it’s safe to say that the world has lost its way. During such a turbulent year, you’d expect to see a movement towards unity. With technology keeping us together at the click of a button, it’s well within our grasp. Instead, chaos and uncertainty have been leading the charge. Have we lost our way as a species, or did we forget the wisdom that afforded us happiness in the first place?
We’re at a turning point in society. A point in which we need to come together and unite to create a harmonious and balanced Earth. Each and every one of us was once connected, regardless of cultural and ancestral lineage. But as each generation grew old and produced the next, much of our wisdom was lost to time. Eventually, the foundations of our happiness faded. Before long, it was replaced by a culture that thrives on instant gratification. A culture of hate, not love. And not only did we suffer, but so did our planet.
Fortunately for us, many wisdom keepers still walk and defend the Earth, sharing their ancestral knowledge with the masses. Biraci Jr Yawanawá, Leader of the New Hope Village, believes that ancient wisdom is well within our grasp if we pursue it. “The breath that ‘man’ seeks today is in the ancestral knowledge of his own history, and in the reconnection with nature. The simple way of living today is a luxury that is available to everyone, and it’s the way the Yawanawa people have lived forever.” This life of simple, unspoken luxury is almost a mere memory to the Earth. In today’s society we have learned that wealth and ownership is the key to happiness. This way of thinking has led to uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources and our Mother Earth, causing not only environmental degradation, massive loss of biodiversity and human rights violations, but science has also proven that this destruction of our Mother Earth is what is causing a global crisis- climate change. But we have the power to change this. To live harmoniously, we need to understand and incorporate the teachings of the people who have been living in synchronicity with the Earth and taking care of her for generations. We still have time to learn, and we’d do well not to waste it.
Connection vs Separation
Indigenous people around the world, whether it is in the tundra, the savannah, the deserts, the highlands or the Amazon rainforest have lived connected, as one with the land for thousands of years, learning the ways and the secrets of the earth they walk on, and passing down this knowledge from generation to generation.
We humans are part of nature. The world is a gigantic living organism, which we are part of. To be ‘above nature’ is to be out of alignment with ourselves. It harks back to one old adage, “If nature suffers, we suffer. Though if nature prospers, we prosper”, says Ryan Dingle, a musician known as Whitewolf whose songs are a tribute to Mother Earth. The caretakers of the Earth, and the keepers of the ancient wisdom, know this all too well. To be mindful and connected, we must go beyond being ‘present in the moment’. We must have a deep awareness of the consequences of our actions in the future. Seek change today to usher in a better tomorrow. That is the essence of being mindful, and staying connected.
The key is leaving the world better than you found it, for all the future generations to come – as does the article I’m writing now. This article exists to share the wisdom that can better our society, and reconnect us with our nature. By incorporating a way of thinking that focuses on the world we leave behind rather than how much we can take from the world we live in now, future generations can adopt our ever-changing mindsets. We will begin to give back to the Earth rather than taking from it. And slowly, they will return to a balanced Earth. A cultural penance that spans hundreds of years is no less than what the world deserves.
This shift towards connection rather than separation helps more than just the environment. It’s a symbolic escape from the hypnosis that social media has put us under. Companies are fighting for your attention at every minute of the day. Whether you click on a notification or browse Instagram for an hour, social networks are insidious in their pursuit to be your main source of happiness. To keep your dopamine on a drip, and satiate you with new posts when you hit refresh. This hypnosis prevents us from reaching internal ‘connection’. In fact, it’s the very reason we stay separated day after day. Benki Piyako, President of the Yorenka Tasorentsi Institute, is an Indigenous political and spiritual leader from the Ashaninka People. “Human disconnection was brought upon by the way we have been educated, resulting in these chaotic times. Economic and scientific advancements have developed in a way that have polluted our lands, caused deforestation and used up all natural resources, creating a complete world of disconnection,” Benki asserts. The only way to break out of it is through a deeper connection with nature, and a complete disconnect from social media Stockholm’s Syndrome as we know it.
Giving vs Investing
As we welcome wisdom into our lives, let’s also remember to do it respectfully and carefully, learning and appreciating, not appropriating. It’s important to reflect on where society as a whole is heading. Especially in the western world, we live in an individualist society. A society in which the most pressing questions are, “How much money can I earn?”, “What can I get out of this?” and “What’s mine?”. It’s all about material possession, climbing the social ladder, and most importantly, ourselves. But if we were to listen to the wisdom keepers, we would adapt a collectivist mindset. A mindset of collectivity and connectivity, of receiving and giving back, even if we think we have nothing left to give. Remember how much Indigenous people have fought, and continue fighting to protect the Earth, for all of us. Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the world’s population, yet they hold more than 80% of the entire world’s biodiversity on their lands.That means something. Remember just how much the Earth gives us all. Everything we have comes from the natural world, our food, our houses, our medicine, and even technology. It is time for us to give back.
It’s a freeing feeling – to let go of material worth and possession. To live for the sole liberating purpose of giving back to what gave you life, and to understand that we’re a part of something much bigger than ourselves. To most, this concept is so far removed from society that it’s completely alien. But it’s not outside of reach. All it takes is a simple step back, and a moment of quiet reflection to evaluate where life has taken you. And moreover, where it’s going to take you next.
Remember that to give is to expect nothing back. This is the fundamental difference between giving and investing. You give because it’s the right thing to do, not to keep track of how much value you receive in exchange. Modern celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio adopted these principles, giving us all some hope that this age-old wisdom didn’t completely get lost to time. DiCaprio shared just last year, “I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon.” The award-winning actor spoke up during the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires against Brazilian president Bolsonaro, who funded and enabled this destruction. British musician and rainforest preservation advocate Sting shares a similar sentiment to DiCaprio, claiming that “[Doing nothing] is criminal negligence on a global scale, and we will all suffer the consequences.” Sting launched the Rainforest Foundation in 1987, and has worked closely with Indigenous people to protect their lands and prevent commercial exploitation.
DiCaprio has a similar history of alliance with the Earth. In fact, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donated $3 million to mitigate the damage of the catastrophic bushfires that raged across Australia just this year. And while it may seem difficult to give endlessly in the face of futility, that’s not the way Sting or DiCaprio see it. They’re a part of something much bigger than themselves. It’s a movement towards selflessness, and towards building an authentic connection with the Earth. It may take years, but even we can take footsteps towards a greener planet.
Indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest living in connection with the land understand the importance of receiving and giving back to the Earth. They understand the natural cycles of the Earth, which is reflected in their everyday practices, in how they treat the land, in how they plant the seeds, in their fishing and hunting practices, and in their tireless efforts protect their land from exploitation by extractive industries.
Sense of Ownership
Many struggle to even consider letting go of material possessions. A sense of ownership is often the only thing standing between a person and their freedom. Society educates us to reinforce this concept of ownership – to remind others that that is yours, and this is mine. But it’s the addiction to owning and conquering which creates a world of imbalance and insincerity. These are values that will leave the planet worse than we found it, not better. Wisdom keepers say that this concept plants a seed that leads to greed if left unchecked. Whether it be land, an animal, or even a relationship, most are guilty of letting our personal sense of ownership consume us.
We must remember the following mantra, “We do not own land, we do not own people. We do not own animals, we do not own objects. We take care of them because then, they will take care of us.”
We’re reminded to be guardians of those things we feel we own, and to take care of them while we can. In doing so, the universe will give back to us, too. Nina Gualinga is an Indigenous woman of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. She’s an international advocate for the rights of women, Indigenous people and climate justice. She says we’re all born on the land lent to us by our future generations and shares her thoughts about violence and ownership of the Earth.
“Violence against women and violence against the Earth comes from the same idea of ownership and control; that something is yours. That one can own the land, and that one can own a woman. And because one can own her, one can also exploit her. But we cannot own the land. We cannot own women. We cannot heal the Earth, and we cannot heal as women, if the abuse and exploitation of our bodies remains normalized, and if our pain is continuously silenced.”
Nina likens violence against the Earth and violence against women; As women’s movements are speak up against violence, and youth are striking for the climate, scientist are warning about alarming rates of global warming. We see glaciers melting, forests burning, sea levels rising – as a sign of the harm we are causing the Earth. It is about time we start listening. Protect forests, mountains, lakes, coral reefs, glaciers. Protect the protectors of the Earth. Support Indigenous people, highlight indigenous voices. Look to be a part of the planet, and play your role as protector. Carry out the cycle of nature, give back to the Earth that you live on, and incorporate the values and morals that will bring harmony, balance and healing to the world.
Benki shares that sentiment, and offers sage advice about finding a spiritual connection with the Earth. “The seeds you plant will be the harvest you reap, starting with our good words and teachings. Planting the earth and taking care of innocent living beings will bring world balance. We need to remember that we are spirits just like the forest, the water, and the land. These are the values that we Indigenous people have been fighting for. If the nations of the world have the connection we have with all living things, planet Earth would look like a different place.” It’s time to set aside material wealth. We all have a duty to rebuild, replenish and revitalize the Earth, and we cannot be complicit in allowing destructive practices to continue anymore. If we all make a difference today, we’ll begin to bring equality and peace back to society tomorrow.
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